As the holiday season approaches, parents are eager for any shopping tips I can give – not in terms of gifts they might buy, but in terms of taking their children shopping without a hassle. Let me see if I can “sale” through a few tips with you.
First, know your child’s limits. Don’t make shopping an endurance contest. Children can get bored very easily and when they do, or when they get tired, they will show it by losing control and acting out. Therefore limit the shopping time when you are out with your child. It is better to go on shorter trips more frequently, after an afternoon nap and a snack at home, than to go just before naptime when both you and your toddler are tired or hungry.
Praise your child often to encourage their best behavior. Promising your child a toy or material reward for good behavior is often not as powerful a tool as lavishing praise and attention on your child, such as saying “You are being so helpful!”
Keep your child involved: ask them to help you get things down off the shelf, or stop with them to admire and discuss the holiday decorations in the stores.
Of course, never leave your child unattended in a shopping cart. Have them remain seated and buckled up at all times.
Plan ahead and discuss with your child shopping rules and what you will do if your child does not behave, such as leaving the store immediately and not getting to do something your child wants to do that day. Tell your child there is no reward for misbehaving. The use of threats and warnings rarely if ever works: just do what you said you would do the first time your child acts out and the behavior will hopefully not occur again.
Finally, keep your cool. A child who acts out is not a reflection of bad parenting but a child acting like a child. Praise and attention coupled with firm rules and consequences are tools that work best to make a shopping outing enjoyable.
Hopefully you will find that tips like this a bargain when it comes to taking your child shopping with you during the holidays.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.